Noel Cassidy reviews two entertaining magazines designed to get A-level English students thinking.
The English and Media Centre Quarterly; Subscription pound;25, individuals within a subscribing institution. pound;10.
emagazine is about engaging A-level students in critical debate and thought about their subject, making connections and stimulating responses. Recent issues have included features by students, teachers, examiners and authors on responses to particular texts, language use, approaches to different genres, exam technique and applying for English courses at university.
One of the strongest points of the articles is the way they address the assessment objectives. The writers demonstrate that issues of interpretation and context can inform and enrich reading and writing. For example, Tony Coult's account of the first production of Translations, a reading of Plath by Rick Rylance in the light of Cliff Richard lyrics and an essay by Sean McEvoy exploring the theatrical and mercantile context of Jonson's City comedies. There are also interviews with authors, and poets, such as Gillian Clarke, discuss verse technique with reference to their own work.
Since emagazine is aimed at language as well as literature students, it often features detailed linguistic explorations of texts, which are as fruitful for a literature student's AO3 as they are for a language student's understanding of semantics.
It's by no means all heavy stuff. There are amusing snippets and Michael Rosen's entertaining little pieces on contemporary English usage. In fact, I wonder where else you might find pieces like that alongside an interview with Ian McEwan (pictured left) or Pat Barker.
The website contains an archive of past articles as well as extensions for features in the current edition, and there are video resources here as well as textual material.
emagazine takes English studies out of the classroom and shows students that what they are studying is part of a much wider, lively debate, where people argue and interpret because it matters, rather than because there's an essay deadline.
The publishers have recently launched a sister publication, MediaMagazine. It has the same values and philosophy, combining solid, practical advice to students with theoretical discussion and debate of key concerns - violence in film, for example.
The writing in both titles is never patronising and frequently challenging, and the publications themselves are beautifully designed and a pleasure to read.
Noel Cassidy teaches English at St Albans School, Hertfordshire